Apostates: how big a deal was it for you to give up your religion?

Part of me wants to place this thread in IMHO, since what I have in mind is more poll than discussion. But I can’t imagine the mods letting the thread stay in IMHO since it’s sure to involve witnessing–albeit negative witnessing–and I won’t complain out loud if a debate breaks out.

Anyway … this current thread brought the topic to mind. My question is addressed specifically to persons raised in a religious faith who currently consider themselves atheist, agnostic, anti-theist, or some other flavor of non-believer. Was giving up your faith a difficult process? If yes, what made it so?

It was easy for me. I don’t think ever really had any religion. I was raised with religion, but realized from an early age I didn’t believe it, and was not particularly bothered by that. It was more like I was bemused by the fact that so many seemingly sane, rational adults did believe it.

I was honestly surprised to see you as the first respondent, DtC; I had thought, based on no actual evidence, that you were raised atheist.

Giving up the religion I was raised with was mostly easy. Partially because their teachings basically said I was going to hell just for existing. It was also hard in that, I was raised with it and it is a deeply ingrained part of me. I still sometimes find myself struggling with letting go of wondering if they just might have been right.

No, I was actually raised in not just one religious tradition, but two. Catholic father, Southern Baptist mom. Catholic schools and Baptist sunday school. I got the full Christian spectrum.

No difficult. Like was said above I never really bought into it, was just raised with it.

The only difficult part was that when I told my mom I had no interest she said “fine, but you have to go talk to the elder and tell him you won’t be coming anymore.” It was another six months before I got up the nerve to do that (I was about 14) but he didn’t make it hard on me.

That last sentence can’t be true unless you were also regularly obliged to go attend a Mormon temple. :cool:

In fact, make that Unitarian Universalist services.

My experience, exactly.

I was a raised as a fundamentalist, evangelical Christian.

And giving that up was a very big deal for me. It was difficult for me emotionally to realize, little by little, that most of what I had been raised to believe was at best misleading, at worst a total lie. When you’re a kid, you trust the adults around you who seem to know what they’re doing. That trust shapes who you are; it creates the foundation of your world view. For me, it was calamitous to discover that this foundation was shifting sand. Also difficult was realizing that these people whose approval I had sought had been leading me down a path of deceit and error.

My church showed anti-evolution films to the congregation. In retrospect, these movies were so poor as to be laughable, but the adults around me were persuaded, and for a long time I was, too. That kind of intellectual irresponsibility is hard to forgive. There were other kinds of propaganda at my church as well, all designed to foment the fear of the other, the other being people who weren’t among the elect followers of Christ: there were anti-Rock music seminars, lots of Satan-worshiper fear mongering, and the like.

I’m amazed my parents let me play Dungeons and Dragons. But, fortuitously for them, I fell in love with Classical music and had no use for Rock.

I struggled with my church’s notions of morality, which were confused and conflicted, and always deeply unsatisfactory to me on many levels. As an example: the average conservative church goer’s utter hostility towards basic human rights for gays strikes me as peculiarly antithetical to Christ’s teachings. There are numerous other examples, which I don’t need to delve into right now. Worse yet was the oft-encountered assumption that Jesus was implicitly on the side of the GOP. In those days, I was a registered Republican as soon as I was 18, but I knew that assuming God’s favor was obviously impossible, and in fact leads to some really bad decision-making. Still, the notion is pervasive among many Christian churches. The idea that God could possibly favor one political party over another really needs to be vigorously challenged immediately, but I rarely saw (or have seen) anyone doing so.

The cognitive dissonance–of trying to reconcile the endemic kinds of judgmental, Pharisaical behavior of far too many Christians with Christ’s supposed teachings of love and forgiveness–was too painful for me to tolerate for long. To just say they weren’t “true Christians” was no solution, either; that path leads to arrogance and the worst kind of sneering elitism, precisely the kind I couldn’t stand. The churches that taught meekness, humility, love, compassion, and sacrifice–as Jesus taught–are not the huge, successful, mega-influential churches that are dominating the culture of the U.S. The successful ones ultimately pander to human avarice and pride; some are more subtle than others, but all the big ones do, and that is unforgivable.

Ultimately, for numerous reasons I came to doubt the Bible as the literal word of God–that it could be utterly reliable in all respects, as I was taught–and long story short I eventually came to realize that the whole notion of Christian atonement for sin, not to mention the notion of “Original Sin,” was utterly insane. With Adam and Eve came the Original Sin, causing Mankind to be separated from God. Exclusively via acceptance of the sacrifice of his “only” Son (why only? why not dozens of the bastards?) can Man’s Sin be redeemed, and thereby direct fellowship with God be allowed, and salvation gained. I came to feel that the whole idea was pretty fucking bizarre. God would have to be one twisted motherfucker for that to make any sense. Going into details about all that is wrong with this is a topic for another thread. Regardless, the house of cards crumbled.

What was painful for me? For starters: Being honest with myself that I couldn’t believe what I had been taught, and needed to relearn everything. Coming to realize that the approval of these people I thought I respected wasn’t worth it. Discovering that the world view I had believed was a total myth, and everything I thought I understood about the universe had to be reconstructed, myself along with it. Realizing that on some level, my parents and I were no longer going to be able to relate to each other.

(Actually, my parents and I have stayed pretty close, mainly by carefully avoiding certain topics around the dinner table.)

In the end, what I can say is that painful as it was, the process was worth it. I was miserable when I was trying to believe in that crazy web of myth, fiction, and confused morality popularly known as “Christianity.” Saying I’m happy now would be a bit of a stretch, but I am far happier now, and far more at peace with myself and the universe, which is more important anyway.

Easy really. As I became more and more aware of the world, historical and present I became more and more aware that religion was hostile to everything I valued; it became obvious that religion was illogical, baseless, evil, and factually wrong. It became repulsive to me. It was easy to give up something I had come to consider worth less than nothing.

As for my relatives; they were mostly low key when it came to religion. My brother also become atheist and so wasn’t a problem. My parents had divorced, so the subject never came up with my father and my mother had become very reluctant to even discuss religion at that point thanks to the Moral Majority types; she said that she never told other people she was Christian because she didn’t want them to be afraid of her. It was mostly the people at Sunday School and such who had really pushed religion on me in the first place; my parents sent me there because they were “supposed to” as far as I can tell.

My parents were presbyterian missionaries and my father a minister until he retired.

I was literally raised in the church. Never really took though.

I do have quite an affinity for Tibetan buddhism. Then again most people who spend time backpacking in Tibet do.

I was a liberal Catholic up until 7 months ago. I was going through a deep depression at the time, and my religious confliction had a large part to do with it. I got better 6 months ago, and I’ve been depression and medication-free since. I know that’s not giving much detail… It was hard personally, but my family was OK with it. I still feel the loss daily, and it’s going to take a while to fully get over. I went from a worldview where I would live forever with a loving, omnipotent being who had my destiny fully planned and was willing to help me every step of the way, to a cold universe devoid of any Ultimate meaning. I have to make my own meaning, the existentialist way, and sometimes it sure does suck rolling the boulder up the hill…

I was fortunate to practice a religion that did not persecute (at least intentionally), nor discriminate. “Liberal,” is the best word I can come up with, while some people might just say hypocritical or lazy. My lifestyle is the same now than when I believed, but I still mourn the loss of heaven. I just have to use the sadness to make heaven a place on earth. (Ooooh, baby do you know what that’s worth?)

I was raised by a single mother and didn’t really have a big religious influence in my life, thank God (heh). The first time I mentioned to my mom that God didn’t exist, it was as a snarky response to something she’d said. She responded with “Nicholas!” sort of like when I used to swear around people as a child (she didn’t care when I swore when no one else was around- she just wanted to give people the idea that she was a “proper” mother).

A bit later I had a conversation with her while I was driving us on a long car ride and she admitted that she didn’t believe in God, either. She’d never really thought about it, apparently.

I get more flak from random Christians than I do from my Christian family (my grandmother on my father’s side thinks that my atheism is a phase).

I didn’t ditch my LDS faith until I was 30. My whole adult life I had doubts. Things just didn’t quite make sense. So I researched a few topics in an attempt to resolve the doubts. I found myself stretching the facts more and more to justify my belief. It was a gradual process over several months, but after a while I realized that I was no longer looking to justify my belief, but to defend my new disbelief.

Religion was a HUGE part of my married life. As Mormons, we were married not just for this life, but for the afterlife as well. My wife had never shown any signs of doubt. I was terrified of what her response would be. I didn’t want to keep secrets from her, but I didn’t have the balls to tell her that our marriage was no longer “eternal.” Partly based on Skald’s thread about a year ago, I delayed telling her as long as possible.

As it turned out, she had some well-supressed doubts. When she discovered I was a closet ex-Mormon, she did some soul-searching of her own. After a rough couple of weeks, she agreed that the facts just didn’t make sense. She is still a theist in a vague sense, but a skeptic of all religions, especially LDS.

It is an ongoing process. We prepared a statement for our friends and family, but decided against sending it. Why upset everyone when it’s really not their problem? We live outside of Utah, and our friends and family are in Utah. We have explained our situation to our local Bishop, our parents, and her siblings. Our families have been very accepting and respectful of our decision. The Bishop, well, we get about 6 visits a month from people who were “passing through the neighborhood and just want to tell us how much they love us.”

But next time we visit Utah, I suspect everyone will figure it out when someone notices we aren’t wearing holy undergarments. That’s fine with me as long as the news doesn’t reach the wife’s grandparents. This information will be very upsetting to them, and we prefer if they never find out.

Struggling to retain my faith was a difficult process.

I had a very difficult time, probably a good deal of it because we don’t talk about Hell or anything like that. Just the cycle of rebirth, which isn’t that bad - you get lots and lots of opportunities - eternity, in fact - to make up all of your mistakes.

My doubts were sown literally on the day my real mother showed up and told me whose daughter I was, and it was very painful for me for the next few years. I buried myself more in my religion. Shortly after that I took certain vows to remain…ascetic, I suppose, or as close as you can in this world. I vowed to remain a vegetarian and lead a proper Brahmin lifestyle, (it lasts until you’re 25, I believe). (I ended up dropping this in college, slowly, when it was very hard to find nutrituous vegetarian food. It’s different now, or so I hear.)

When I look back at my development however I think the thing that most drove me away from my religion was the treatment of women. Understand I really do think of Hinduism as a rather liberal, modern, and intelligent religion. And women have much more of a strong place than Eve the source of Original Sin. Still, it was clear that women were meant to be wives and mothers. Oh, we certainly had Jhansi ki Rani, Draupadi, Kunti, and Sita - strong women through all of our culture. But all women were still expected to be faithful wives and mothers, and always put everyone else in front of them.

The other thing that really bothered me about Hinduism was the low emphasis on individuality. Your individual self is the least important thing. It comes after family, state, government, world. I was raised in the States. I have a strong streak of hedonism and addmitedly, selfishness, and it did not seem right to me to sacrifice my own happiness for others. I believed, and still believe, I could be happy, without sacrificing myself, and without hurting others - that there was in fact a middle ground.

Then there was of course the issue of child cancer and the myriad of children that are hurt, raped, and killed. How can anyone justify that with a good, loving God? I don’t know. I just know I can’t.

I still consider myself culturally Hindu. I mean, I haven’t turned any other religion, so I never really lost it, and I do believe in some of the trappings in Hinduism. And I respect it far more than I do the Trinity - Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. In high school and college I read the Bible and the Q’uran, looking for answers, and found none. Single male-god religions are fairly alien to me, even living in the states. If there is a such thing as a god, it is gods not one God and it is present in everything and everyone - it’s our compassion, I suppose, our love for one another, and all of the beauty in the universe. It has nothing to do with some grand figure sitting on high judging us all.

And thus was my path to atheism.

I was raised Catholic, though my mother became a “born again” when I was approximately 11 or 12. I never did believe any of it. Batman seems more real to me than God.

I was raised Congregationalist, but it didn’t take. If you ask me for any of the details I ever learned in church, I couldn’t tell you a one. Total blank. So giving up my religion really wasn’t much of a step.

Now I’m either “Pantheistic Hedonist” or “Reformed Druid,” depending on who’s asking.

It was a really big deal (to me, not my family). I was raised Catholic, but my family was really lax about it. We went to church every Sunday but that was it – we never spoke about God during the week, we didn’t pray before meals or pray together, and so on. When I was 18 and having a hard time adjusting to college life, I turned to my Catholicism for stability, and from then until around age 28, I was very devout. My faith was the center of my life. It helped me tremendously in working on being a better person – examining my conscience, becoming more forgiving, patient, friendly, etc. It gave me a sense that there was a structure to the universe and to life, and that there was a purpose behind everything that happened to me, good or bad. Everything in life was a challenge to me to learn something or to grow.

It wasn’t one single incident that caused me to lose my faith but a series of small crises. I don’t feel like listing them out, to be honest, but they all basically had to do with the evil in the world. One day, while I was praying, it came to me that there was nothing there. There was no higher power listening to me. All that effort to reconcile the chaos and evil of the world with the idea of a structure and purpose to everything…wouldn’t it be so much simpler if there were no structure and purpose? I’d had these thoughts before, but this time I couldn’t dismiss them, and…that was it.

It was devastating to me – losing my faith was like losing a parent. It took me about a year to talk about it without crying. Even now I miss it, and I miss belonging to a faith community, but…I just don’t believe that there is anything out there. My family doesn’t really care – my brother was always an atheist (even as a child), my mom stopped going to church years ago, and my dad was always very laissez-faire about religion – but I still feel bad.

Giving up Christianity was extremely difficult for me. For a while I really thought my marriage might end because of it.

But I was always taught that very little in life is more important than truth (you know, capital-T Truth). When I became convinced that Christianity is NOT the truth, I had no other choice but to walk away.

(Ironically, my parents were the ones who taught me to always seek truth. They are still devout Christians, so obviously we came to different conclusions about what the truth is.)